Art Chowder May | June 2017, Issue 9 - Page 42

Diego Velázquez Las Meninas 1656 oil on canvas 125 x 109” 1634–5 Museo del Prado, Madrid But surely his most celebrat- ed work, and the most writ- ten about, is the artist’s enig- matic Las Meninas, painted in 1656. Authors Jonathan Brown and Carmen Garrido (Chief of Conservation at the Prado) describe the paint- ing as “the largest oil sketch ever painted…as he had sought to make the world come alive by suggesting the appearance of visual data through strategies of in- definiteness.” X-rays reveal that the artist made minimal changes here (one of which is the direction of his gaze in his self-portrait at the left). Brown and Garrido continue to say, “Velázquez was able to project his ideas onto the canvas without vacillation.”4 We may justly call this a tour de force of sprezzatura. Indeed, in more than one way—teacher Francisco Pacheco (1564-1644) wrote of his student that he was so “im- pressed by his virtue, integrity and excellent qualities, and also the promise of his great natural genius” that he gave Velázquez his daughter’s hand in marriage at age 19. Before Velázquez was thirty he had become first painter to the king in Madrid. By the 1640s he had